Friday, May 26, 2006

My Stand on Reservations IV

Why do so many young students, doctors, engineers and MBAs in
India protest so vehemently against reservations-based-on-caste?

The answer lies in our primary education system.

Indian parents are obsessed with their kids performing well in their school. This only means one thing- “Get highest marks, no matter what”. There is heavy pressure on the kids to score higher and higher scores and the success in life is directly related to these marks. When I was a young kid, I used to get 5 out of 10 in all my art classes. If I had gone by what my art teacher thought of me, I would never have taken up art to become an artist. According to her, filling in the paint uniformly in those already-drawn-objects in a text book was considered art, and some girls who painstakingly filled them according to her mandate got 10 out of 10. If not for my parent’s encouragement which suggested that marks was not important and that I was more of an artist than what my marks suggested, I wouldn’t ever have taken up art in my life. Unfortunately, most parents in India judge their kids performance ONLY by their scores.

Therefore, the kids in India study their text books very well, learn everything by-heart and reprint the text as it is to earn appreciation from everyone. There is a tendency to believe that scores are necessary-and-sufficient criteria to judge a person’s competence. The school-going kid is protected from the realities of life, and he grows up knowing only Cricket, Bollywood and School text books completely oblivious to any social issue of India. All his life, this kid is told- “Study well, score more, and you will get into IIT”. He does that and only that. But when he is about to get into IIT, he suddenly realizes that 50% of those seats are actually reserved for a section of people who can enter with lower scores just because they belong to the so called lower caste. It dawns upon him that this world is out to deny him his admission, his rightful place in this elite institute he always dreamt of. He is enraged. He asks- “How could this stupid and selfish government, just to get more votes, impose these outdated and out-of-place rules to deny me my rightful position in spite of scoring really high marks? How can I accept that someone inferior to me in ‘merit’ and ‘quality’ can actually get the seat while I stand out?”

Why do we not prepare our kids to face the harsh realities that he would eventually face? The problem is with our primary education and parenting. The school texts and teachers teach and preach the glorified version of Indian history which had a great past. But he is not taught how we had a parallel history of prolonged and systematic discrimination and persecution. All ills are hidden or compeletely ignored. The kid grows up not knowing what it means to be a Dalit and doesn’t know any Dalits. Even if he does know one, that would be an IAS officer’s son who appears to be well off. So, when he realizes that such a thing called reservations-based-on-caste exists, he immediately sees himself as ‘victim’ and this rich IAS officer’s son as ‘profiteer’. He gets infuriated because now it means that he may not get a seat into IIT while this rich IAS officer’s kid may very well enter scoring lower marks. He makes this local comparison and feels discriminated against. He rationalizes that it is all a conspiracy by the Government of India and its politicians to discriminate him- and asks - why are they doing it to him? Only because he is from forward-class! Why should he pay for something that happened long ago?

His indignation is so high that he is ready to get out onto the street, go on a hunger strike and face police brutalities- because he knows heart-in-heart that he is fighting for a just cause. Even the media’s attention and focus tells him that he is fighting for a just cause. He believes he will be heard, and that the President of India, whom he held in high esteem till date would definitely understand his cause and come to his rescue. But when all these leaders do not budge from their stand, he gets disillusioned by the system, gets frustrated. He comes up with many antics, like, sweeping the streets with a broom. What he actually wanted to show was that he will have no job and hence will have to sweep the streets now. But what he doesn’t realize is that Dalits, for centuries together, were asked to sweep the streets and sweep their own footprints because they were considered untouchable. To mimic the same atrocity is sheer mockery of their plight. I don’t know whether its ignorance or its apathy. He puts up a hoarding saying- “I will go to US since my country has disowned me”. What he doesn’t realize is that when he does go to US he has to pay $120,000 to $250,000 to get the same medical degree. In addition, during the admission process he has to face competition within his own peer group (other Indians), while a Black American, Hispanic American, or a Tahitian, with much lower scores has better chances of admission. No wonder, many Indians go to US with the same discriminatory prejudices and never get the learning or schooling to change their views. (Readers must know that Indians living in US are more discriminatory towards Blacks than the Whites.)

Contrast this with a kid growing up in US. The kid learns in school that Blacks were systematically discriminated and hence to correct those actions US has implemented Affirmative Action. The affirmative action is explained in detail. The kid also learns how White Americans discriminated and killed many Native Americans and hence they are now given special privileges- like owning vast stretches of Reservations (land), owning and operating Casinos, etc.

Our Indian gets lost both in India and in US. He can’t understand why certain sections of people are given preference though they score less. He was always told ‘merit’ was everything. Some of these disillusioned Indians, over a period of time, make an attempt to learn and adapt to the US system appreciating such affirmative actions while most others continue to live in their protected environs mixing and rubbing shoulders only with fellow forward caste Indians, watching Bollywood & Cricket and debating how Reservations and Muslims have ruined this country (India).


  1. It is naive to say that people dont have ideologies when they are supporting/opposing reservations. It cannot be generalised so simplistically. :)

  2. First, I would like to congratulate Sujai on the blogs "My stand on reservations I to IV". Its well thought about and well written and I read with with lot of interest. I am sure that everyone who reads this blog will agree with him as I do.

    I also agree that the educational institutions and private companies should voluntarily start affirmative action as in the United States.

    The government should understand that anything that is imposed by force will be rejected by the people. For example, rejection of Hindi as national language in Tamilnadu was successful because the central government imposed it on all the states. If it had been voluntary then it could not have been opposed so much. Same is the case when Sanjay Gandhi forced people to undergo vasectomy.

    However, all his arguments are in favour of reservation to "Dalits" who have been discriminated against by the forward caste for many many generations. Nobody has opposed reservation for Dalits and it has to be continued for few more decades.

    What the students are protesting
    against is the reservation for "OBCs". Can you say for sure that the OBCs have been exploited in the earlier generations and if so, how??

  3. Dear Anonymous:
    Thanks for the encouragement. I set out to write a series of articles to explain my stand. Nobody seems to touch upon the sensitive aspects- media never discusses the discrimination and how it affects social psyche. I started out with defending reservations in principle as first step. Next, I wish to discuss other related issues- including reservations for OBCs. Just to give a brief overview- the discrimination itself in India was manifold- I mean it was graded at different levels. Shudras were kept out of schools and colleges but were allowed to do necessary jobs like blacksmith, pottery, weaving, etc. Unlike Dalits, they were allowed to take up employment in certain areas- but administration and education was definitely out of their purview. This gradation is still seen in villages of India. Shudras themselves felt a level above Dalits and ill treated them in turn.

    Agreed, the desired % in reservations and who is OBC and who is not is debatable. There have been instances where in certain shudras have elevated themselves to being ruling class.

    The present argument in media and mainstream seems to be direct opposition to reservations-based-on-caste using ideas like 'merit', 'quotas based on economic status', 'losing excellence and quality', etc, which are applicable to all reservations, SC/ST/OBC alike.

  4. dude,
    coherently written. some very valid points..especially the ones about educating india about the crimes in our history.

    but your argument in part iv assumes that the protestors haven't thought about this and attributes a lower level of social intelligence to them. A significant portion of the protestors and indians will agree that some kind of "reparative" corrections have to be made. but neither the majority nor I agree on reservations as a means to achieve it. you simply, by any stretch of logic, cannot erase an artificially imposed inequality by continuing it.

    your comparison between affirmative action and reservation has a major hole...they are essentially different. If i add 5 percent points to all the BC and OBC marksheets, that would be affirmative action...however if i keep aside 50%, it is reservation. there is a major difference with affirmative action as no seat is "reserved" for anyone. everyone has to reach a certain minimum...the goalposts are slightly shifted. also, why should more than one generation of a family get the benefit of reservations?
    anyways...keep blogging!!

  5. Sujai - I found this blog of yours the best among the 4. I like the reflective way you have described how anti-reservations opinions get formed over the years. It's refreshing to read such views. I completely agree that our entire educational system and parental upbringing focusses heavily on 'merit' and exam scores, to the exclusion of social sensitivity. We go very far to protect children from the harsh realities of India's past and present.In fact, it is a known fact nowadays that school history textbooks are heavily biased and sometimes even blatantly false.

    I think the major reason why young students oppose reservations so vehemently is that they are COMPLETELY out of touch with the social realities in rural areas. They believe that caste discrimination is something of the long-forgotten past and that it doesn't exist today. I think the only way to change this would be to actually show them the blatant discrimination which happens in villages and to increase inter-caste contact and communication.

  6. Dear All:
    On Affirmative Action:
    I am not trying to equate them. They are not the same. But they can be compared- because they have the same task ahead of them- to reverse the discrimination that some sections had to endure. Each country has its way of implementing it.

    Indians come up with 101 reasons as to why India should not have reservations, while in US, organizations and universities promote affirmative action voluntarily. That reflects a certain level of maturity which is lacking in India. In India, no one apologizes for mistakes of the past or voluntarily promotes backward castes. Recognizing that caste-based-discrimination (or race based in US) is an issue that we have to deal with instead of closing our eyes to it is the most important difference between US and India.

    The maturity of US schools and colleges allow it to do it voluntarity. There are lot of courses, debates and articles ofered on this topic. It was not always like that in US- some time ago, they had to send US Army to a state to make sure they allow black students into their campus.

    We have not reached that level- as clearly seen by its complete rejection from Industry and Academia.

    Hence the imposition. When we do learn in schools, grow up to promote them voluntarily, I think then the Indian Government can then step back and stop imposing it. Till then, imposition is necessary.

    In spite of US ruling on affirmative actions, many organizations, Fortune 500 companies and universities continue their support to extend and promote affirmative action.

  7. On rubbing shouldes with Dalits:
    Yes, you may be ready to rub shoulders with Dalits. But does that mean everyone in India is ready to do the same. Go to an university in India and see how the faculty is composed of. (there are 282 brahmin faculty in IIT Chennai out of total 400). They make sure their own caste people are promoted and there is clear distinction based on caste lines. Go to a village or a town office. Every one knows everybody's caste. And that is 80% of India which you are not aware of.

  8. We tend to believe that India is the way we see it. To an answer from an American co-worker on whether Indian girls wear Jeans and Skirts, my friend from Mumbai immediately replied- "Yes, they all do!" On more prodding from my side, he replied- "Every one in my neighborhood does!"

    Just because you do not know the caste of your co-worker, that does not mean the whole of India is that way. Just because you are not taken to a concentration camp, or just because you do not someone who is taken to a concentration camp, it does not mean they did not exist (this happened during WWII in Germany).

  9. On reservations for Women and Handicapped:
    Yes, reservations exist for handicapped people throughout India, including sports quote, military quote, etc.

    As far as reservations for women is considered, I shall discuss later, but I shall say that I am a strong supporter of that too. In Andhra Pradesh, we have 33% reservations for women, and it has brought it such great social changes that progress witnessed during entire Indian History appears pale in comparison.

  10. FORWARD THIS MAIL IN PROTEST AGAINST THE CASTEIST REMARKS OF A DELHI DOCTOR AND A DELHI JOURNALIST. Please forward to all your friends. Whether we like or dislike reservation is a different matter. But such casteist remarks are to be totally condemned.

    The ugly side of few perverted minds in Delhi

    For nearly two weeks few guys in the capital were shouting that Merit is going to be compromised due to reservations. All the while, there has been clearcut evidence as to show that Merit will be NO WAY affected due to reservations and that reservations are going to uplift the society as a whole.

    Now the cat is out of the bag.

    As per Rediff a guy called Armaan, a doctor leading the agitiations says

    " We prefer reservation for people who deserve it. It's not that we don't have a conscience. We do care for the poor, those who really need help. We should have reservation on the basis of economy."

    So, at last as we have been telling all these days, these depraved guys never bothered about Merit. Merit was just an excuse for Apartheid. I would like to know the reaction of all those who were crying in the name of Merit (including two self-centered caste-centered nepotistic chaps who resigned from the knowledge commission in the name of merit) as to the new shift in demand by the Doctors that they are ready for Quota based on Economy, but not for quota based on Caste.

    For those who do not know the difference, let me explain

    Now if seats are reserved on the basis of caste, let us assume that a Student from FC will get the seat if he scores 297 out of 300 where as a student from SC will get the seat even if he scores 291 out of 300 (these are the cut off values from MBBS Admission in Tamil Nadu in 2005)

    So far the apartheid guys were shouting loud that merit will be affected. There were even remarks from few of those "intelligent" chaps that a guy who scored 292 (SC guy who has got seat) is less talented (or less meritorious – let me repeat the word play) than the forward caste guy who scored 296 (and there fore cannot get the seat as the OC cut off is 297)

    But now they WANT QUOTA ON ECONOMY. So they have no problem when a poor guy with mark 292 gets the seat while a rich guy with mark 296 does not get the seat. And strangely, in this case, (according to these doctors and also a person called Narayana moorthy, for whom I had great regard, until he too advised economy based quota) the merit is not affected when quota is based on economy.

    Now I am not able to understand this……

    If the earlier claim that merit is going to be affected by reservation based on caste is true, then merit is going to be affected if the quota is based on economy or for that matter any other reason like the state of domicile (Delhi – 100 percent reservation for Delhi Undergraduates) , Religion (eg Andhra Pradesh) , college graduated (eg JIPMER)

    So a person whose primary aim is preservation of merit should NOT ALLOW ANY QUOTA.

    But See the Delhi Doctors.

    They have gone on Mass CL today. They do not want a SC student getting 292 marks get MBBS. But they were silent when Private colleges were started that made any person, even those who passed 12th after 3 attempts get MBBS. What were they doing when the private colleges were opened? They did not even give a sign of protest. Do those AIIMS guys think that we all are fools to believe that they are crusading for merit at present? What were they doing for those sponsored seats and NRI quotas

    They have no problem when some one gets MBBS from Private College even though he gets 50 marks in 12th. They never fought. It was Tamil Nadu students who had always fought against the private medical colleges

    They have no problem of a student getting low marks in PG entrance in AIIMS, but getting MD Gen just because he studied MBBS there. At that juncture they never represented to PM or President

    And as per the latest statement, they have no problem if a poor guy who gets 292 marks become a doctor while a rich guy who gets 296 has to watch

    BUT THEY ARE WORRIED when a SC Guy (or a OBC Guy) who takes 292 marks get admission instead of a Forward Community guy who gets 296.

    SO in effect, all these hullabaloo over the past two weeks were not against reservations. It is in fact against the students from the reserved community.

    They were not fighting for merit as they were claiming (we already knew that merit is a mask) They fight to maintain apartheid

    And see this report in Economic times by Urmi Goswamy from Delhi(as per that sums up the issue

    PRIVATE schools and parents worried about their children studying along side children belonging to weaker sections can breathe easy. The government proposes to let them off the reservation hook. The model Right to Education Bill proposes that private schools that receive no funds from the government will not be required to take children from weaker sections. The Model Bill will form the basis of states' legislation to enable the fundamental right of education.

    SO there are guys in Delhi who cannot breathe easy when a student from weaker society studies along with his children. Their main worry seems to be the community of the student who studies along with them and not the marks of the students who studies in the college. God Save India !!!

  11. Dear friends,
    We have terrible news of three students who have recently committed
    suicide after their class XII results, however we need to take a more
    serious view of this matter. Every year the number of students
    committing suicide is shocking. Parents and the elders of our society
    are unable to understand or relate to the youth of today. this is
    largely because most of us have grown up in bossy relationships with
    our parents, seniors, the government, teachers, bureaucrats and many
    others. In India, for many, the transition from infancy jumps to
    adulthood, there is generally very little space for the period of
    childhood. Parents are busy teaching and ordering us and forcing us,
    rarely listening to us, for girls it is even worse because they feel
    the immediate difference in attitudes towards the male child. It is
    these pressures coupled with the maddening expectations of a personal
    achievement consumerist driven "YOU will reach the top- no matter what
    the costs are.." society which leads to these grave injustices to
    innocent hearts and minds of the young. When was the last time parents
    or our elders really "talked" with us, it is always talking TO us
    rarely with us.

    The real reasons behind things happening in our lives are mostly
    hidden and swept under the carpet, they lie festering for years to
    come, breeding more hartred and insecurities, all because of, "what
    will the neighbours or relations think?" then when these things come
    out they explode and no good comes out of it. We are taught everything
    but the truth about most things in life and now days we are often even
    taught to be "practical" and even lie or cheat to get out of tricky
    In the Indian middle class scenario there is no space for the "young
    adult" we are either fools or are mature responsible people, so few
    will tell their parents about their first kiss talk to their friends
    about their first crush on a sweetheart, we must hide because no one
    will understand and we cannot criticize our adults because we are not
    mahatma gandhi's or mother theresa's.

    The reason there are no jobs and a deep sense of insecurity among the
    youth is because whereas there are only a total of 5000 seats reserved
    for the SC ST s in the last 10 years there have been more than 120000
    seats created in private medical colleges. These private colleges have
    been created through huge subsidies paid from our tax payers money
    which was to be used for our benefit. To top it all these seats as we
    all know are also up for sale costing more than 25 lakhs at times, far
    beyond the reach of most of us.
    So not only are we subsidising the rich to get richer, (as an
    example, Apollo Hospital in delhi pays only Re1, yes one rupee yearly
    as land rent) these private hospitals and medical colleges all do
    promise to provide medicines, treatment, seats and cheap education to
    the poor but do they?? forget it if - you believe they do, then you
    are very very simple.
    What the youth needs to really do, is to fight against privatisation,
    to belong to a rich family is almost like getting an assured "quota or
    reserved seat" . Even a most incompetent student can really muck up
    the merit issue by simply buying admission in to a private college.
    Till we do not seriously address this critical issue all these
    unfortunate problems of children committing suicides will continue.
    If we believe that if removing all reservation and quotas will proide
    enough seats for all deserving students- we are wrong, there are just
    not enough jobs or seats being created in government sector,but we
    keep paying education cess, taxes, VAT etc.We must force the
    government to stop financing the rich to become richer and instead
    work towards creating more educational institutions and jobs for the
    ordinary people in the government.
    Like me I am sure you feel pain anger and grief at such loss of young
    lives, possibly they could have been your family or firends.However it
    is important to channelise this anger towards the correct path. The
    reason we do not have adequate electricity, adequate and good
    education, good medical services, adequate transport, etc. is largely
    because we from the middle class have found it easier to take a
    shortcut rather than fight the system instead, so what do we do??
    bad water - aqua guards
    not enough water - water pumps
    government schools not good - pay for private schools
    bad transport - private car
    and we let the government get away with bloody murder and it keeps on
    doing nothing while we and our parents keep on paying taxes. And now
    children are committing suicide.
    Now in all this scenario the government has also made a bigger fool of
    us by dividing us on the basis of religion or very often blaming the
    "ISI" or "foriegn powers" for the ills of this country. This enables
    the people to keep fighting among themselves while the government and
    politicians make merry. What does it matter for the religion of the
    unfortunate student who died? The RSS and the BJP kept on talking
    against foriegn money but once in power the BJP did everything
    possible to implement the economic policies which were ironically
    decided by Manmohan Singh when he was finance minister. There is no
    difference between BJP RSS CONG CPI CPIM BSP SP JD AIDMK DMK etc. they
    are all blood brothers. They will convince you of the superiority of
    the vedas or the koran and the bible while snatching the roti from
    your mouths.
    The real path is laid down by the sacrifices of comrades like Bhagat
    Singh and Chandershekhar Azad and 14 year old Khudi Ram Ghosh , who
    studied planned and worked extensively to free india not only from the
    whites but also from the "black english". the revolutionary path to
    complete freedom- not like the apologists and cowards like Hedgewar,
    Savarkar and Gandhi who quickly distanced themselves from the
    revolutionaries when they were imprisoned by the British.
    We the youth must unite to fight for a struggle like Bhagat Singh and
    his comrades fought without caste gender or religion coming in their
    If any of you are interested in their lives or their writings do write to me.
    The world can only be changed by the YOUTH.
    Remember my friends, "the measure of one's sucess cannot be measured
    in how high you rise above others, rather how high you rise with
    In solidarity,


  12. hi,

    Have you met an indian who is rational and casteist.i.e. who believes some cast are superior in in their inherent mental capacities.



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